Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Swim A Day Keeps the Doctor Away

'Tis the season for influenza and rhinitis, for the adenovirus and streptococcus. As the weather begins to sharpen its senses and the light of the day fades faster and faster, those little nasty viruses and bacteria start their ultimate invasions in hopes of finding a cozy human home for the winter.

However intended and sneaky, I have managed to fight off millions of these little bugs attempting to take over my very well-being for the past three weeks or so. They ring my doorbell each morning by causing coughing and congestion almost congruent with my 5AM wake-up call. My routine has now started to include a drop of homeopathic immune boosting extract to settle those crazy germs announcing their invasion, typically as I make my way to my morning workout. By the time I am done with practice, I feel good as new--every single day.

This scenario has been the same just about every morning for the past few weeks or so. So, in putting 2 + 2 together, I started to become a rolling informercial for this immune booster stuff. I sold it to a friend, I convinced my mom, and I excited my sister with the notion of virtual recovery within minutes. This was a miracle product, I was so sure of it! In fact, I never even questioned its actual existence or effectiveness, or even the cause of my immediate, daily recoveries. I just thanked the immune booster and then pushed it in the face of everyone in my path sporting a healthy smile on my face.

It wasn't until this week when both mom and sister regrettably explained that the stomach-turning, bitter immune booster wasn't helping AT ALL! How could this be? They must be doing it wrong, or...

Wait?! Retracing my steps, I realized that the immune booster wasn't the only thing that I was doing on a daily basis-- I was also swimming.

And there it was: Swimming.

Swimming was the thing that was keeping me healthy and relatively bug-free each and every day. Breathing deeply as I stroked, circulating fresh oxygen-rich blood throughout my body, and smiling and enjoying every second of it... those are the things that are keeping me well.

And here it is folks, it isn't found in a bottle and it doesn't cost any money. The secret to my health?? It's rather simple: A swim a day keeps the doctor away, no doubt. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Squishy Concrete Thing That Lives Inside of Me

I've been searching for something. This something is more powerful than necessary, more beautiful than disasterous. This something is terribly misunderstood... and it lives inside of me.

Uncovering ones layers can be daunting and terrifying, unleashing monsters swept under beds and skeletal systems hiding among hanging sundresses and neglected dresspants. But in order to move forward to a life that you care to dream about and long for, it is crucial to go straight there. Do not pass "Go!", do not collect $100.

I have known this for quite some time, and not being a complete cloud-dweller, I have known that there are many parts of me that need to surface and be challenged directly in order for me to really be the me that I truly want and can be. It wasn't until very recently that I have even been able to acknowldge; however, the extreme notion that this part of me has played in my life-- often holding me back from my own greatness and keeping my wheels firmly planted in dark, sticky mud.

Through an enormous amount of self-reflection and the courage to try, I have found some things inside of me that I never knew existed. They are sneaky, soft-spoken parts of me that come out without using words and hide beneath every smile. These are the feelings of words that haven't been created yet, which makes them very hard to give them the force and the weight that they really do deserve. These are the feelings that keep me from being me wholly.

These feelings look like a building, like scaffolding. These feelings look like unfinished concrete. These feelings are bold and strong like concrete, yet can be pushed on and tested like jell-o. These feelings dwell deep inside at my core, yet are not a part of my actual body. These feelings cannot move on their own accord. These feelings are dull and gray. These feelings have made home of my soul and have gone completely undetected until just the other day-- when I declared to my heart that I, myself, was strong enough to allow them to surface.

Initially, I was afraid of this squishy, cementy thing and I feared its place in my mind. I was angry and upset for it causing me such pain and sorrow for such a long time. I was relieved when I realized that it didn't have to be this way. I had it wrong all along. I didn't have to find it to destroy it, I know that now. I simply had to find it to embrace it. After all, on some level it has kept me alive for this long-- I suppose it should get some credit for some of it.

So by now, several days have passed. I am just shy of two weeks away from leaving for the ParaPan American Games where I will compete in the most elite event of my life. How am I preparing? By making friends with the squishy concrete thing that lives inside of me. Hmm.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Learn to Love Me More Today

One year ago today I was sitting in a little cafe in San Francisco reveling in my new-found re-love for swimming. 

Munching on a giant walnut sourdough loaf, in quintessential San Fran flare, I remarked to Sar about the meet--my first meet back in the water in over a decade. We laughed about how nervous I was and for what a "big deal, little meet" this was. We joked about my post-taper cravings of Diet Coke and frozen yogurt. We acknowledged having broken four American Records, because previously there had been no such swimmer up to the challenge. We started making memories, not entirely understanding at the time how crucial they were all going to be for my own growth and self-reflection.

That evening, Sar and I met up with an old and dear college friend of mine to celebrate being back in the water. Over a divine balance of drip-droppy sweet, yet titillatingly tangy sangria, the three of us toasted to my accomplishments. I toasted for simply having the guts to try it...

Coming back to Colorado, I landed with a new song in my step and a new groove to my wheel. I had found a bit of confidence that I hadn't previously ever been able to put my finger on long enough to feel. That feeling started everything-- I quickly became and even more devoted 3AM swimmer, creating practices that left an encouraged taste of bile in my mouth. I trained, and trained, and trained. I lifted weights. I practiced yoga and stretching. I bought an ultrasound machine for my screaming muscles. I announced my desire to drop down to a part-time teacher the following year. I went to more swim meets.

And at those swim meets, I continued to gain experience as a competitor. I was gaining so much about myself, not only as a swimmer. I was, for the first time in my life, able to beat down barred up windows to a prior-concealed soul. I was able to uncover a few monsters under my own bed. I began training my insides just as much as my outsides (which I have found to be much harder to accomplish, and far more painful).

In that year, I began to understand that it was about swimming just as much as it wasn't. With every stroke I made, I did so with the greatest of intention and desire to become the most whole, most self-accomplished me I could ever imagine.

It was a long year.

Today, I sit in a little cafe in San Francisco reveling in my ever-growing rebirth for swimming and every uncovered, subtle life lesson in between.

Coming out of my second-ever Santa Clara Disability Meet, I feel much different that the first time around. I feel the weight of my own insecurities and under-bed monsters stronger than ever. But why?, is the real question that I've been gulping down this entire weekend.

In less than a year's time I have accomplished so much. I have broken a total of five American Records, with World Rankings in most of the events that I've swum. I have had the highest honor of becoming a part of the US Team to represent in the ParaPan American Games this coming November. I have done all in my power to spread the meaning behind one's own human effort and giving all that one can to make things real for them. I have joined forces with brilliant women to accomplish the dream of speaking at a TED conference. I have looked at my insecurities with an open heart and made every attempt to make peace with them. I have done a lot.

However, even as I sit here at this smallest cafe on the corner of 18th Street and Dolores, in the Mission District, I cannot help but create dissonant, interfering statements where all of those above periods sit. There isn't anyone else to swim those events. You swam well to get on the US Team, but you can't repeat it. Nobody really understands why you would sacrifice half of your job and most of your money to swim. People see my chair and feel better about themselves without event taking in a single word. You think you deserve this, but really you don't know anything about anything. 

These words, although just a slight example of what those subtle mind-daggers sound like, encapsulate my dream. I know, and I truly do--deep, deep inside of my orangish, circling soul-- that I will NEVER be able to accomplish everything in my heart until I find a way to silence the monsters and demons and naysayers and sheep-wearing wolves in my mind. I have never quite understood why my mind has to be such a bully over my heart, but this is something that I have GOT to take care of before it's over before it begins.

So, for today, I will try to honor my own accomplishments of the past year. I will attempt to raise my own glass (or water bottle) to my own dreams and desires. I will make a promise to myself to take time to find those words that speak to my heart in song, rather than some terrible disconnected cable television.

It is so incredibly embarrassing to know that--without a doubt--that I am the only one responsible for any sort of dissatisfaction in my life. I am the only one holding me back from going under a minute in my 50-backstroke, and I am the only one who is able to fix it.

Well, cheers to me. Bottoms up. Salutations. Congratulations. Salud... I will take this day as the attempted first day of many to pay attention and mind to all of my insecurities and mind-daggers. I promise, I will learn to love me more today.